Marlene Perez Reflects On Her Four Book Series

YA author Marlene Perez stops by to chat about the origins of her fascination with the paranormal and the evolution of her Dead Is series. The newest novel, Dead Is Just A Rumor, will hit shelves today and now you can read the *Web Exclusive* reviews of the entire series. Learn what role Perez's large family played in her writing career and don't miss heroine Daisy Giordano's Top Five Rules for Getting Along With Sisters at the bottom of the post. 

I am the youngest of twelve kids and have seven sisters and four brothers. Let me start off by warning you that my siblings and I have an agreement. I’ve agreed not to name any names and they’ve agreed not to break out the embarrassing baby pictures. I’ve always been a fan of the supernatural and I blame it on my older sister. My sister, let’s call her A., would babysit me after school. A. and her best friend were big fans of Dark Shadows, a supernatural soap opera from the ‘70s. I swear one of my earliest childhood memories is the image of Barnabas Collins taking a bite out of someone’s neck.

I’d wanted to write a vampire novel for a long time, maybe since I first set eyes on Barnabas, or maybe when I first read Interview With A Vampire, or maybe the first time I watched Buffy and Angel kiss. The goal was always there, but it was when the first line of what would become Dead Is The New Black popped into my mind. I had the title and a vague idea that that my protagonist would be the youngest of three sisters. 

Like many writers, I keep an ideas file full of things I might want to write about. In that file, there was a short interview piece with an actor who mentioned that she and her sisters were all named after flowers. That’s how I came up with Rose, Poppy and Daisy, the three Giordano sisters in the Dead Is series. I knew they would be close in age, but very different. Rose would be a calm, classic beauty who focused on her studies, Poppy would be flamboyant and attention-getting, and Daisy would be the underappreciated youngest sister. More importantly, their relationship would be as real as I could make it.

The first line of Dead Is The New Black just popped into my mind. "Being dead became fashionable approximately forty-five minutes after Samantha 'the Divine' Devereaux came back from summer break." That’s when I knew that the vampire would be the villain in the novel. I wrote three chapters of Dead Is The New Black, as well as the proposal for two more novels in the series. 

This was in 2006 and I had just signed with a new agent. His enthusiasm and energy was amazing. He’s signed me up after reading a different manuscript, but had asked what else I had and I mentioned the Dead Is proposal. I think I sent him the first three chapters of Dead Is The New Black and the proposal on a Wednesday and by Friday, he’d already pitched it to several editors. My agent eventually decided there was enough interest for an auction and after an anxiety-laden September, the series sold to Julie Tibbott at Harcourt the day before my birthday.

I went to work on the books immediately. I started a series bible, where I wrote down physical descriptions, song ideas, and photos of what I thought the character looked liked. I also completed character sketches on all the main characters. Since I have seven sisters, I am very familiar with the sisterly dynamic and I wanted the books, although they deal with the supernatural in high school, to portray realistic relationships.

My own sisters were older and I always felt like the tagalong, the kid who they ditched as soon as they could and I tapped into that to create the dynamic among the Giordano sisters. Daisy, the youngest, felt like a complete outsider in the beginning of the series, especially since she was the only non-psychic in her family. 

Over the course of the series, Daisy, with the help of her sisters, investigates paranormal mysteries in Nightshade. She also comes into her own powers, gets a boyfriend, and becomes closer to her two sisters. Although I didn’t base any of the characters on anyone I knew, I was very familiar with how territorial sisters can be. So there’s a humorous reference to the time Daisy borrowed Poppy’s sweater without asking. Poppy, whose power is telekinesis, the ability to move objects with her mind, floated the sweater right off Daisy’s back and back home, much to the horror of Daisy’s date. I’m pretty sure that if one of my sisters were psychic and I borrowed something without asking, that’s exactly what would have happened.

Underneath all the fighting, though, is true love and support for each other. The Giordano sisters may argue, they may be jealous of each other’s powers, but they have each other’s back. I’m hoping I might eventually see the Giordano sisters on television. The Disney Channel recently optioned the first three books in the series. I think Barnabas would approve.

- Marlene Perez

Daisy Giordano’s Top Five Rules for Getting Along With Sisters

1) Never borrow anything without permission (or it may just float off your back in the middle of a date, totally embarrassing!)

2) Break-ups mean double chocolate brownies (I use Grandma Giordano’s recipe. Chocolate always helps to mend a broken heart.)

3) Always let Poppy keep the television remote. (It’s like her security blanket.)

4) Never argue science with Rose or fashion with Poppy.  (Or for that matter, cooking with me.)

5) Sisters are forever, so you might as well try to get along with them (Don’t tell Rose and Poppy, but they’re pretty great, most of the time.)

Read the RT *Web Exclusive* Reviews of the entire series, pictured below in chronological order.

 Read The Review >>         Read The Review >>          Read The Review >>         Read The Review >>

BLOG UPDATE 8/25/2010: We were excited to learn that Dead Is Just A Rumor is set to be followed up with book five in the Dead Is series, Dead Is Not An Option. This installment finds Daisy in the middle of a vampires versus shifters war (and trying to keep her calm during the painful wait for college acceptence letters). It will hit shelves in the spring of 2011.